Call Center

comments 15

One night
when Hafiz was working the phones,
a call came in.
The man began
by announcing
that he had a few questions,
as if he were preparing
his counter party
for a barrage of heavy artillery.
The way he said it
made it sound
like he had a few answers, too.
Look, he said,
you can’t really know
if there is anything
beyond this life or not,
but consider:
if there isn’t a God,
and I die, then fine.
I’ll rot.
But if there is a God,
and I die, and I’m not a believer,
then things could perhaps go badly
for me…  So,
I have concluded
the only reasonable thing
is to assume He may exist,
and to be kind to others
and whatnot.


(Well he did ask one question.)

Very gently,
Hafiz set the receiver
down in the cradle.
Inside, he was
already trembling.

His supervisor
raised an eyebrow
from the far side of the
call center.

Prank call, Hafiz croaked.

His supervisor
waved him off
for the rest of the night
and slid into his place
at the phones.

Hafiz felt himself
splitting in half,
as if he’d been fed
a rotten piece of fruit,
stabbed through the heart
with a sharp blade,
told he didn’t exist,
and abandoned on the roadside
by his own family.
He got up
and ran for the door
and ran down the hall
and ran up the stairs
(ten flights of them)
and ran across the roof
and  dove deep into the sky
like a shot arrow
plunging straight
into the marrow of time
until he was absorbed
into a million histories.
On the horizon
a line of billowing clouds emerged
that wept gently
all through the night–
a pitter patter vigil of sweet tears.

At dawn, an orchard by the sea.
Orange and lemon trees
ripe with fruit.
Dancing butterflies.
Calling parakeets.
Gardens of jasmine
and a family of cormorants
perched along a rocky cove,
fishing in the shadows.

Like this,
a holy Place
has been prepared
for each of us,
but only the purest type of question
will foster access.
We cannot gain admittance
tickling the gates
of an entire kingdom
with a clever feather,
or expect our fine print
to influence a court
that knows no language.

Careful is far too diluted–
a desire cut too thin with words
and heady conjectures
to be the purest type of question.
Better to collect our
polite confusions
and distill them into something
potent and unbearable,
to boil off the excess
until just one sip leaves
us retching on the floor,
our insides hot and splintered,
their true nature revealed,
and to chug the whole
bottle of this medicine
so that when we drag ourselves
across the floor to place the call,
we can’t even speak,
but have become a question.

There is a Friend alive inside
of that type of question
the way heat is inside of light.
There is an orchard in there, too,
a breeze perfumed by oranges,
and a banquet table
stretching to the horizon,
with places set for Everyone.


  1. Brilliant – many congratulations on this exquisite writing.

    Whoops! – that sounds like spam; but it’s not – promise.

    With gratitude and respect, Hariod Brawn.


    • Thank you, Hariod. I never doubted for a second. Even the most robust of automated spammers could not have seized upon the delightful relevance of the image of a hand bestowing a key upon its beholder following a post such as this. 🙂



      • That key was for the entrance to a 15th. century manor house that once existed in rural Devon, England. It was discovered during an archaeological dig at the site of land that was about to become an extension to a Church graveyard. The spot it was found is where my grandson is buried; so the image has lots of meaning for me – glad it evaded the silent gatekeepers.

        Wishing you all the very best Michael – Hariod.


        • Your grandson showed you the key. How very beautiful… I will not try and imagine the layers of meaning found in the loss of a grandchild, but I will imagine that the key, the child, you and I, and whatever comes next have all been swept up somehow into something never ending and quite meaningful. It all begins with having something to say or share, doesn’t it…



  2. Your poem is breathtaking. I felt swept along for this beautiful journey. I love when the magic meets the mundane and carries you away 😀


    • Thank you very much, Shailie. I love that part, too. It seems so often to me that the mundane DOES coexist with the profound, the infinite, the unbounded– and our task as beings is to somehow become a living link between the two. Blending them in writing has become almost instinctive. But mostly just good, clean fun! 🙂



  3. Like Alison and Don’s group – I swoon. After walking around with the poem in my heart for a bit – I started to remember the prank caller – the feather tickler, the junior lawyer approaching a misunderstood court date – with compassion – for he and I have danced before. The shattered Hafiz’ sacrifice – I walked by in oblivion, in a smog of swirling debate or self-indulgence, but it waited. The parakeets and lemon trees called with their beaks and color and citrus smells with undying love and patience. I am so grateful you keep the spigot turned to blast, and not drip, drip, drip – those who are thirsty can drink pure water here! xo! m


    • You hit upon a sentiment that has bailed me out on many an occasion, the realization that Creation waits patiently– gladly, freely, joyously– for our wholehearted return to the garden of unity and sustenance. It is a gift so great as to be overwhelmingly good when we truly see it and drink it in. I am so enjoying the gifts of all those who take time out to read and gather here, for the thirst quenching waters flow in both directions… It is given to us all, for us all, through us all…



  4. Michael, now this one makes the spirit move! I especially love this:

    We cannot gain admittance
    tickling the gates
    of an entire kingdom
    with a clever feather,
    or expect our fine print
    to influence a court
    that knows no language.

    Somehow you play with words in a way that seems effortless, even when you leave me questioning the intellect’s capacity to grasp “it” at all!! Oh how the heart sings 🙂

    Bravo dear friend! What evocative language… Beautiful just beautiful.

    With gratitude,


    • Thank you very much, Amanda. I wrestled over those very lines for probably half an hour to be honest. It’s a bit like playing Tetris with words– slide them around and reshuffle them and grab a few new ones out of the air until they fit the shape and sound of a feeling as close as possible. I’m so glad they resonated with you.

      So, as an aside, I was at the bookstore earlier this week and thought to see if they had that biography of Jung, which they did not, but they had one called Jung the Mystic: the Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s life. Curious if you have read it or know if it is worth perusing or not?

      With gratitude returned,


      • Hi Michael,
        I’ve not read that book but I looked it up on Amazon and was fascinated to see it was written by Gary Lachman – the original bassist of the band Blondie!! He later became a full-time writer fascinated by the occult and mysticism…wrote about everyone from Jung to Swedenborg…how interesting! Anyhoo, I’m not sure about that book. I will say that I enjoyed Jung’s autobiography immensely because of the real “Presence” I found there. People say the same about Hillman’s books – for me personally, there is something magical about reading the original work – it gives a sense of the creativity and inspiration at the source of their writing. Peace, Amanda

        PS. Or we could just read some William Blake and call it a day!!


        • Thanks, Amanda. I’m with you on reading the original work if available. I’m a presence junkie… 🙂



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